Experiencing trauma is an all-too-common occurrence in our society, especially for women. Whether it is being the victim of abuse or violence yourself or simply witnessing it, trauma can affect you for years, even from childhood. Those who have experienced trauma have different needs in treatment, and they do not always respond well to traditional treatment methods. What is trauma-informed care?
The Need for Trauma-Informed Care
When someone experiences a traumatic experience, the human brain may initially go into fight-or-flight mode and be overwhelmed with emotions. Still, the fight-or-flight mode switches off after the danger is clear and the emotions are processed. That is how it is supposed to work. For too many people, the experience gets “stuck” and stays alive inside of them, continuing to cause pain indefinitely unless that trauma is processed and healed. Often, unresolved trauma can turn into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For women with unresolved trauma, traditional addiction treatment methods can be triggering. Some methods are confrontational or invite conflict, others force patients to share when they are not ready or willing, and many people in the recovery industry use slogans or jargon that are dismissive or insensitive. Additionally, sometimes mixed-gender treatment programs can create challenges for women who have suffered abuse from men. These types of treatment programs and methods can be incredibly triggering for women with unresolved trauma and can even re-traumatize them or directly lead to a relapse.
Both the prevalence of trauma and responses to some traditional treatment methods highlight the need for trauma-informed care. Whereas traditional treatment methods ask the question, “What is wrong with you?” trauma-informed care shifts the focus to asking, “What happened to you?” This shift is a more compassionate approach that acknowledges the individual experiences of each patient and honors them by providing care from those who are knowledgeable about trauma and its symptoms. Trauma-informed care is based on five basic principles of safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness, and empowerment.
Why Women Need to Feel Safe
Women who have experienced trauma, especially those with PTSD or unprocessed trauma, often go through life in constant fear and feeling unsafe. Even the slightest hint of emotional or physical danger can trigger their fear response and make them feel unsafe. Providing them with care where they can feel emotionally and physically safe is crucial in them being able to continue to function and access care. For many women, this includes female-specific programs for them to feel safe and be willing to open up and be vulnerable as they are healing.
Giving Women a Choice in Their Treatment
Abuse and trauma can leave women feeling as if they have no control over themselves or their environment. They may retreat and be less responsive emotionally and physically, which renders treatment ineffective for them. When you give them choices in their treatment process, this allows them to feel like they have control over their lives again, and they are more likely to participate and benefit from their treatment.
The Power of Collaboration
Women who have been victims of trauma, especially repeated abuse, can feel weak and powerless. When offered the opportunity to collaborate and share in the planning and implementation of their treatment process, they no longer feel powerless. They become active participants in their outcomes and are invested in their treatment process.
The Importance of Creating Trustworthiness
Trauma creates a lack of trust for many women. That lack of trust can be pervasive throughout their lives, making it difficult to feel safe and respected. By respecting personal boundaries and being clear and consistent in the treatment process, providers can help create an environment of trustworthiness that allows women to engage and grow as they heal.
Empowerment After Trauma
Women who have lived with trauma can feel overlooked, invalidated, and unimportant. When they are given opportunities to learn and build skills, being validated and acknowledged for who they are and what they are doing, they become empowered. Women step into their power and are motivated to improve themselves, be self-directed, or perhaps even develop leadership skills.
Trauma-informed care can make the difference between personal growth and success in treatment or relapse and re-traumatization. The difference between a program that respects and honors you and your experiences as an individual and a program that simply adheres to a set plan that they use for everyone can be particularly obvious when you are undertaking such a personal transformation. As you seek to heal from substance abuse, finding a facility that truly implements trauma-informed care will help ensure that you have the best experience possible.
Using trauma-informed care is vital in helping women with unprocessed trauma feel safe and empowered in their healing process. Offering care based on the principles of safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness, and empowerment will help women be successful in treatment. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is a detox and residential treatment program in Costa Mesa, California. We use trauma-informed care to help women feel safe during treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders. Our staff offers safe, non-judgmental, compassionate healing in a facility that is a peaceful refuge from chaos and trauma. We offer both clinical and holistic modalities such as EMDR, yoga, essential oils, mindfulness, and meditation to help women who have experienced trauma heal. Our goal is to provide a safe place for you to find your way again. Contact us at The Ho Tai Way at (714) 581-3974 to learn more.